Essay on Evolution in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

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Evolution in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

In the play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, Professor Higgins, an expert in the art of speech, bets Colonel Pickering, another master of phonetics, that he can take a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, and pass her off as a duchess at an ambassador's Garden Party. During this story, Shaw uses the characters to demonstrate the necessity of human evolution. As Eliza's verbal ability increases, so does her personality and self-esteem; and Higgins's failure to recognize her changes leads to a severe strain on their relationship.

Eliza begins the story as an unstable, insecure character who acknowledges her membership in the less privileged class but still tries desperately to
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Miss Doolittle seems to be a character with very little self-confidence. She is somewhat emotionally unstable and is ready to cry if only slightly injured.

As the story moves forward and Eliza is adopted by Higgins, her character gradually changes. As she begins to speak English properly, she becomes more confident. Dr. Daniel Jones, a well-known Shaw critic concurs that "phonetics is represented as providing a key to social advancement,"3 which shows that Eliza's character changes may be drawn from her increased speaking ability. She no longer sits down and cries, but instead laughs and asks "Don't I look silly?" (29) when she washes herself and then puts on the Japanese dress so that nobody recognizes her. She, who was once a mere flower girl, is now referred to by even the cautious Pickering as "a genius." (44) Although some time has elapsed between the third and fourth acts, Eliza's development in that period is most certainly completed. She has become the lady that Higgins originally intended by the beginning of the fourth act. It is here, also, that Eliza's individuality begins to shine through. She is no longer intimidated by Higgins's very eloquent use of

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